Ivy women’s hoops in review: Jan. 5-6

Penn takes round one at Princeton

On Saturday afternoon, the Penn women, behind a career game from junior Phoebe Sterba, bounced back from a dominant Princeton third quarter to take the Ivy opener 66-60. The Quakers’ (9-2, 1-0 Ivy, 2-0 Big 5) victory, the first over the Tigers (8-8, 0-1) since the 2017 Ivy League Tournament championship, extends their present steak to five games and gives them an important road victory over the Ivy preseason favorites.

The last time these two teams met, Princeton crushed Penn 63-34 at the Palestra, but today proved to be a much different affair.  The Quakers came out of the gate fast, jumping out to a 13-7 lead on the strength of three of four from the three point line.  By the end of the quarter, Penn used their inside presence to go up 18-11.  Quakers forwards Eleah Parker and Princess Aghayere each had six points, while the Quakers outrebounded the Tigers 13-7.  They also limited Princeton’s star forward Bella Alarie to 2 points on 1 for 6 shooting.

Princeton recovered in the second quarter and a Carlie Littlefield three at the 4:22 mark trimmed the Penn lead to 26-25.  The Quakers then went on a 7-1 run to go up 33-26 with 30 seconds left.  After a buzzer beating jumper from Alarie, Penn went into the locker room with a 33-28 lead.  At the halfway point, the Quakers were shooting 40 percent from the field and 50 percent (5-10) from three, while the Tigers were hitting 31 percent overall and 44 percent (4-9) from beyond the arc.  Aghayere led all scorers with 12 points, while Parker had 8 points and Sterba added 9 points from three three-pointers.  For the Tigers, Alarie and Littlefield each scored 8 points.

Princeton used the momentum from Alarie’s first half buzzer-beater to control the third quarter.  The Tigers, who came out more aggressive to start the second half, took their first lead of the game at 38-37 with three minutes to go.  With the score 41-39 and the clock ticking down, Alarie got an old-fashioned three point play after Parker committed her third foul.  For the quarter, Princeton went on a 16-6 run with Alarie scoring 10 and fellow forward Taylor Baur adding 6.  After three, the marque front court matchup was not disappointing with the Tigers’ reigning Player of the Year had 18 points, 13 rebounds and 3 blocks, while the Quakers’ former Rookie of the Year had 10 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks.

Just when Princeton looked to put the game away, the Quakers snapped out of their third quarter slumber.  Sterba hit her fourth three pointer and Parker hit a layup to knot the score at 44 with 8:54 left in regulation.  With the game tied at 52 at the 3:30 mark, layups by Michae Jones and Parker sandwiched between a steal and bucket by Sterba gave Penn a 58-52 lead with just over two minutes to go.  After Ashley Russell went one for two from the free throw line, the Quakers found themselves up 61-54 with 54 seconds left.

Following a Littlefield three that cut the Penn lead to 61-57 with 32 seconds left, Aghayere was double teamed in the backcourt and turned the ball over.  Gabrielle Rush then hit a deep three pointer from the left side, leaving the Quakers with a one point advantage with 25 seconds on the clock.  Penn’s Kendall Grasela’s was fouled and made one of two free throws to make it a 62-60 game.  Littlefield had a chance to tie the game, but her missed layup was captured by Parker, who quickly passed it to Sterba.  Two free throws by Sterba extended the lead to four with 15 seconds to go.   Alarie missed a three pointer with 10 seconds remaining, but it was recovered by her teammate Sydney Boyer.  Sterba stole the ball and sank the next two free throws to seal the victory for the Quakers.

On the season, the Quakers shot 30.1 percent from three, but hit 50 percent (7-for-14) of their treys on Saturday.  They also arrived as one of the nation’s worst from the charity stripe at 61 percent and only managed 57 percent on the day, but hit their last five in a row to seal the win.  The Tigers, meanwhile, shot 32 percent overall, 30 percent (7-for-23) from beyond the arc and 65 percent from the line.  They held a seven percent advantage on the boards, but Penn had was plus-14 in the paint.

Sterba ended with a career-high 21 points.  She entered Saturday’s contest with 19 made threes on 29 percent shooting over the first ten games of the season, but went 5 of 7 on the afternoon.  (FWIW – Last January, Princeton’s Rush, who went 13 for 54 from three in her first 13 games, hit 5 of 7 from three in the Tigers’ 70-55 win over Penn)  Parker, who had 14 points, seven rebounds and one block in last January’s game against Princeton, finished with a 14, seven and five line on Saturday. Aghayere had a double-double with 12 points and an equal number of rebounds.  For the Tigers, Alarie had 21 points, 17 rebounds and three blocks, while Littlefield scored 13 points and Rush netted nine.

The Tigers, who had their seven game win streak ended, will now prepare for finals and will resume play with a February 1st game in New York City against Columbia (3-9).  The Quakers will finish up their Big Five schedule, taking on Villanova (10-3, 2-1 Big East, 3-0 Big 5) on the 16th and Temple (4-9, 0-1 AAC, 2-1 Big 5), on the 23rd, before getting back to Ivy action on February 1st at Cornell (6-5).

Columbia goes 2-0 for 2019

Columbia (4-9) traveled to Atlanta to take on Mercer (7-8) on Sunday, and escaped a late fourth quarter Bears’ comeback to hold on for a 72-68 victory.  With a 36-34 lead two minutes into the third quarter, the Lions went up by 10 ninety seconds later, and then expanded their lead to 14 with eight minutes to go in regulation.  With a 69-55 advantage at the 3:13 mark, Columbia looked to cruise to a double-digit victory.

The Bears went on a 13-1 run, capped by a Amoria Neal-Tysor three from the left key, to cut the Lions lead to 70-68 with 26 seconds on the clock.  With 25 seconds left, Columbia’s Riley Casey hit her first free throw and missed her second to make it a three point game.  Neal-Tysor then missed a reverse layup with 12 seconds left and the rebound was captured by Casey, who again went one for two from the line to make it 72-68.  Mercer’s Amanda Thompson then missed a mid-range jumper in the paint and the Lions came away with the win.

Casey finished the game with 24 points, six rebounds and three assists, just four days after she scored a career-high 31 points against Hampton.  First-year forward Sienna Durr had a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Lions, and now leads the conference with a 51.3 shooting percentage.  Junior guard Janiya Clemmons added 13 points and six rebounds. As a team. Columbia shot 47 percent overall and 58 percent from two.  Defensively, they held the Bears to 39 percent shooting from the field and 42 percent from the free throw line, while securing a 47-39 advantage on the boards.

This is not the same Mercer team that had 30 wins and went 14-0 in capturing the Southern Conference championship a year ago. Still, Mercer is presently ranked No. 168 by Her Hoops Stats in simple RPI and marks the Lions’ best road victory of coach Megan Griffith’s three-year tenure.  Columbia’s nonconference slate is now over, and the Lions will square off with Cornell (6-5) Jan. 19 at Newman Arena, the opening game of a women’s and men’s doubleheader.

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